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Olivier Ntcham is in for a dose of the Sunday night fear as Neil Lennon awaits his Celtic return


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NOBODY likes going back to work after a holiday, but one can only imagine the Sunday night fear that Olivier Ntcham will be feeling prior to facing the music at Lennoxtown on Monday morning.

The French midfielder isn’t the first footballer to seemingly forget that the internet exists, and the disparaging remarks he made about Scottish football as he expressed his desire to leave Celtic to L’Equipe while on international duty had made it back to his manager Neil Lennon before you could say ‘lost in translation’.

Lennon, for his part, is in no mood to ease the fears of Ntcham before he faces his boss and his teammates. Quite the opposite, as it turns out.

“Olivier is due back on Monday,” Lennon said. “I haven’t spoken to him yet. I don’t need to speak to him, he has to come and see me, his team-mates and the club.

“We will see him on Monday and then he can start his pre-season work. He’s had two and a half weeks off, so he won’t need a lot of conditioning work…maybe a bit upstairs. I will need to have a chat with him on that.

“It’s a question of sitting down and having it out with him. Finding out where [his comments] came from and what his mindset is. It’s new to me. For him to go public about it without speaking to the club first…

“For him to go public anyway is wrong – he is under contract. Whether he unhappy or not, it shouldn’t have been made for public consumption the way he has done it. He will be reminded of his responsibilities while he is still here. If he wants to go, we will have to sit down and take a view on it.”

Equally withering were Lennon’s comments when asked if Ntcham had bothered to reach out to him to explain his utterances once the proverbial had hit the fan.

“I don’t think he’s that type,” said Lennon. “I don’t know if it has been prompted from him or someone else. We’ll get to the bottom of it when he comes in.”

Lennon’s mood brightened considerably when the subject turned to those members of his squad who are still in his good-books, although even that was tempered slightly by the news that Mikey Johnston will miss the second leg of Celtic’s Champions League qualifier against FK Sarajevo on Wednesday night with a thigh strain.

It is a mark of how Johnston has impressed throughout pre-season, culminating in his spectacular goal in Tuesday’s first leg in Bosnia, that his absence will be keenly felt despite Scott Sinclair waiting in the wings to fill the gap he leaves on the left.

“It’s nothing serious and he’ll be back for the next round should we get there,” Lennon said.

“Losing Mikey is a blow because he’s done really well. Thankfully, it’s not big issue. He should be back in a week to ten days and that’s important.

“Mikey isn’t young anymore. He’s 20 and when do you stop calling them boys? He’s a man now and we feel he should be kicking on. This is a big season for him and he’s started in the right vein.

“He’s a talent, he has the game to play for Celtic and you saw that with his goal in Sarajevo.

“I hope it won’t be one of those stop-start seasons for him with niggly injuries. We touched on conditioning with him and he’s worked hard over the summer.

“It’s just a question of keeping him fit but James Forrest had similar issues when he was coming through.”

Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo is still nursing an ankle injury sustained on his debut during the week, but he should be fine for Wednesday evening.

Today’s friendly against French side Rennes at Celtic Park will afford some of those who didn’t play a part in the Sarajevo game to get some time on the pitch, including £7m summer signing Christopher Jullien.

“Jullien will start against Rennes, as will Luca Connell,” Lennon said.

“Jullien has looked fine in training, he just needs a bit of fitness work. The game will help with that but he’s looking up to speed now.

“The other players who didn’t start in Bosnia, the likes of (Leigh) Griffiths and (Lewis) Morgan, will also feature. Beyond that, we will just rotate the squad going forward.

“There is a balance between getting players ready and working them too hard. But the fitness boys know what they are doing.

“They have had a lot of experience with games at this time of the year.

“It’s about getting the balance, so the boys who played 90 minutes on a heavy pitch in Sarajevo won’t do too much against Rennes.

“The rest will start.”

While the match this afternoon will represent a chance for players currently on the fringes of the side to impress, wholesale changes to the team who won 3-1 in Sarajevo shouldn’t be expected for the return leg despite the cushion that Celtic enjoy.

Progression is far too important to Lennon and Celtic to take any unnecessary risks.

“We need to be careful on Wednesday,” he said.

“We have a good cushion but we need to be professional and it will be a strong team.”

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